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Today in Post-Race History: A Quick Note to Jada Williams

As much as I’d like to blog about Oprah’s interview with the Houston family, I won’t. Instead, I would like to publicly, albeit briefly, use this space to show support for Jada Willams, the 13-year-old Rocheser, New York, girl who has been harassed since her essay comparing modern-day education to Frederick Douglass’ experience with his slave master gained notoriety. Although Williams was given the Spirit of Freedom award by the Frederick Douglass Foundation, she was compelled to transfer schools after classmates and teachers reacted negatively to her essay. The school superintendent’s response? “We could’ve responded better.”

Although I could rant for paragraphs about how unfortunate and absurd it is that teachers would bully a student who not only showed initiative, but critical thinking skills, it seems more appropriate to state that if I were a teacher, I’d rather have a school full of Jada Williams than none at all.

Jada, one of the many ironies of this country is that it seemingly champions individualism yet castigates those who dare to be individuals, those who survey the land and think and act for themselves. As my Grandma Charlotte would often say to me, “Thinking is hard work; that’s why so few people do it.” Unfortunately, sometimes the hardest work is surviving the (occasionally nasty) responses we receive when we do think for ourselves and articulate an opinion that jars listeners out of their matrix-y slumber. I’d like to tell you it gets better–in some ways it will; in so many it won’t. But Frederick Douglass is ample proof that it is so much better to be before your time than of it. And I hope you can find some solace in that.

Although this blog probably won’t even cross your computer screen, I know that this e-note is part a chorus of folks who not only appreciate your decision to be honest and true to yourself, but admire you for doing so at an age when the pressure to be silent and fit in seems unbearable. I hope you’ve read some of these words of encouragement during this tough time; I hope they are helpful to you.

You are awesome and fantastic. You are exactly what this world needs. Please, no matter what, remember that.